Desperation, pushiness and luck: All these helped us acquire our gorgeous Alsatian I called Brutus
My father’s brother, Eric, who lived in Bombay, across the country, asked us to pick up a puppy for him from the litter of the pure-bred Alsatian guard dog of the American priests at Xavier Labour Relations Institute, the local American Jesuit-run business school.
We did not have a dog, since my mother had absolutely no interest in dogs, and my father dramatically declared he hated them. My sister and I, however, adored them, and had befriended all the dogs in the neighbourhood, even the fierce Alsatian guard-dogs. We stopped outside the gates that said, “Beware of the dog,”, the guards smiled at us while we called to the dogs, “Jai, Jai,” “Tibby, Tibby,” and the big furry monster dogs bounded up to be petted. And dog and children were ecstatic.
In an astonishing error of judgment, my father took my sister and I to pick up the puppy. A litter of furry adorable Alsatian puppies! I cuddled one. It wriggled in my arms; its soft fur brushed against my neck; it licked me. I fell deep in love.
“I want it, Pa,” I said.
“No. No. Anita, put it down, put it down,” my father growled,
“No, no, I want it.” And my sister and I pleaded, “Please can we have one too.”
“No! Ma can’t stand dogs. And I hate them. No!” he said tight-lipped, mortified. Public scenes and being the center of attention were torture for him.
“Oh, let her have it,” said the kindly Irish-American priests. “The family dog. It’s part of childhood,” they said, recalling a golden time; American suburbia; the fifties…
“Pleeeease, Pa. We love it,” my sister and I repeated, desperately, deducing victory from his furious embarrassment. Unable to withstand this chorus, he assented—reluctantly.
* * *
We returned home, unbelieving and ecstatic. “Two puppies,” cried my mother, who had no time for animals, for whom one night with a dog was more than enough.
“One is for us,” we declared!
“What rubbish! Noel? You’re joking. Noel?” my mother squawked, looking at my father, incredulously, imploringly.
“What to do, lovie?” he said weakly. “Those idiots.”
He looked at her meaningfully, shrugged; I thought I detected collusion. Were they going to return our puppy?
* * *
I slept that night with the puppy in a cardboard box on the floor next to my pillow, letting him bite my dangled fingers, so I would know if they took him away. The next day, we watched him vigilantly.
Dogfood was then unheard of in India. We fed the just-weaned pup boiled rice and meat, and he had violent diarrohea. My mother remembered the dysentery I had almost died of as a baby, and my emergency hospital baptism, and threw herself into nursing the pup. And as Antoine St Exupery points out, you are forever responsible for what you have tamed. The puppy stayed.
* * *
I called him Brutus, The Honorable Dog. I was captivated when I was eleven by the magical rhetoric of Julius Caesar, to which I was introduced by my father who could recite, But yesterday, the word of Caesar might have stood out against the world, now lies he here, and none so poor to do him reverence with pure enjoyment.
All our games featured Brutus. We cast spells on him so that he would remain a bandicoot-eyed puppy, but he grew, grew, becoming temperamental, irascible, snappish, apt to nip us when we dragged him out for a petting from under the beds where he retreated from the heat, and devoted to no one, ironically, but to my father, who still professed to hate dogs, but ensured the cook brushed his thick fur and trained him. And early each morning, my father threw a ball for him daily across our three front lawns, a good half acre, so that the fine animal would remain sleek, sinewy and strong.
We had Brutus for just three years. My father retired at 60 from Tata’s at the mandatory retirement age, and got a new job at XLRI, the local American-Jesuit run business school. A flat came with the job, a three bedroom flat after our sprawling four bedroom sixteen room house, and, according to the rules: No animals.
My shy father, of course, would die rather than ask for exceptions or favours, and so we gave Brutus away to a colleague who wanted him as a watchdog. The man was vegetarian, and refused to give him meat, but promised him lots of fresh milk from his buffalo. I hope he kept his promise.
Start Date—August 27th, 2012
Completion Date—August 31st, 2013
Word Count Goal-120,000
Words per day Goal—550 words a day
Progress (Aiming to write 6 days a week, excluding Sundays)
Day 60—26219 (6781 words behind, whoa!!)